In partnership with BandLab
When Bitwig introduced the Polymer synthesizer in Bitwig Studio 3.3 late last year, it accomplished several objectives. Firstly, it provided a simple but versatile way to quickly dial up a wealth of high-quality synth sounds. Polymer lets you mix and match many oscillator, filter and amp envelope types to create custom variations using synthesis styles such as subtractive, phase distortion, pulse-width modulation and the DAW’s latest addition, wavetable.
Polymer also serves as an easy entry point to Bitwig’s massive modular synthesis environment, the Grid. With the click of a contextual menu item, you can convert any Polymer patch to a fully modular Poly Grid patch, which means you can quickly begin a sound in Polymer and convert it to modular rather than having to build it from scratch in the Grid.
However, not everyone is comfortable working with software modular synthesis. And those who would rather make sounds in Polymer may notice that it only has one oscillator and no LFOs. Fortunately, however, with Bitwig Studio’s flexible interface, that’s no problem. Using Bitwig’s container devices and modulators, you can craft a Polymer synth with as many oscillators and LFOs as you like, without having to get involved in any intimidating patching or programming. Here, we’ll tell you how.
1. Setting up the first wavetable
From a new Instrument track, click + and navigate to Polymer in the Device library. In the Oscillator module (coloured yellow), swap from Pulse to Wavetable. Click the Wavetable graphic to choose from the more than 100 wavetables available in the browser. Try adjusting some of the wavetable oscillator’s parameters, such as the phase modulation, wavetable position (Index) and the pitch-detuning setting.
2. Adding an LFO modulator
Click an empty modulator slot to open the modulator browser. There are several LFO types there. Begin by selecting “LFO”. Click the arrow in the LFO waveshape display to open the modulator editor, where you can set the LFO rate unit from a drop-down menu. Set it to a half-note to make the modulations very pronounced. Next, click the Modulator Out arrow in the LFO waveshape display, which will highlight the Polymer parameters available for routing. Modulate the Phase Modulation and the Index of the wavetable. To assign them, click and drag on a range for each knob, then click the Modulator Out arrow again to finish.
3. Using an Instrument Layer device
Instead of converting this Polymer patch to a Poly Grid patch to add more oscillators, try using an Instrument Layer container device to stack more instances of Polymer. Click the + button to the left of Polymer, then navigate to and select Instrument Layer. Click and drag Polymer’s device heading into the Instrument Layer. Now, in the Instrument Layer, right-click and select Duplicate on Polymer, and choose the second synth instance to edit.
4. Editing the second wavetable
In the second Polymer, right-click and hit Delete to remove the LFO modulator, then pick a different wavetable oscillator from the browser for variety. Again, alter some of the oscillator settings. Why not try reversing the detune value from negative to positive, to differ from the first Polymer? Find a good filter cutoff setting too, which you can modulate with a different LFO.
5. The second LFO
Repeat the process to choose a modulator, this time picking Beat LFO. Assign it to a range for the wavetable Index and filter cutoff. Go into the Beat LFO editor and click the ± Bipolar button to ensure that the LFO modulates its targets both forwards and backwards. Finally, duplicate a third Polymer synth in the Instrument Layer.
6. Add low-end to the third wavetable
Repeat step 4 to delete the LFO, choose a third type of wavetable, and adjust its oscillator and filter-cutoff settings. This time, set the wavetable detune to zero (double-click to revert to the default) and set the Pitch Ratio to 1:4 (two octaves down) to give the sound some lower-end presence.
7. A slower modulation
Repeat the process to choose a modulator, select the Classic LFO and use it to modulate wavetable phase modulation, Index and filter cutoff. Open the Classic LFO editor, turn on the Beats mode, and pick a slow setting from the Timebase menu, such as 2/1, which will give it a slower modulation than the other two wavetables.
8. Saving your creation
There are many other ways to edit the LFOs and to route their modulations, as well as many other oscillator types and settings to explore in Polymer. This tutorial shows you how to do it but not necessarily what to do with. That lesson is yours to learn. But first, save your layered Polymer for posterity. On the Instrument Layer device heading, right-click and hit Save Preset to Library. Name it, categorise it and tag it for easy recall from the browser.
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